KENNEBUNK – Defending a title in any sport is a difficult task, and today’s final round of the 103rd Maine Amateur Championship was no exception for reigning champion Caleb Manuel. Coming off a blistering 63 in Wednesday’s second round, Manuel came out slow on Thursday’s final round to make things interesting for the last day at Webhannet. The 20-year old from Topsham was able to rally on the back nine to make five birdies and shoot 72 on the day to win the event by four strokes and defend his title from last year.
Manuel opened the tournament with a round of 72, which was high by the standards of the Brunswick GC member who recently competed in the U.S. Open as an amateur. He got hot on day two and regained the lead after a 63 that proved why he was the defending champion. His rounds of 72-63-72—207 (-6) were good enough to capture the title, edging out Mike Arsenault (Val Halla GC) by four strokes.
Manuel was even par through four holes on the final round, but bogeys on 5 and 6, followed by a double on 7, made the tournament interesting as the final groups headed to the second nine on the venerable Kennebunk golf course. Arsenault had the lead for a brief while, but Manuel stormed back with five birdies on the second nine to claim the title. Even though he didn’t need it for the win, he finished the tournament with a 25-foot birdie on the last hole before an appreciative crowd to win the championship. He becomes the third straight Mainer to win back-to-back Amateurs, following Jack Wyman and Cole Anderson.
Arsenault, who opened the tournament with a 68 for the early lead, finished in solo second with a three round total of 211 (-2). After making the turn at +1 on his round, he was unable to make any birdies on the second nine to put enough pressure on Manuel. However, this marks his best finish in the Amateur as he continues to make a name for himself in Maine Golf championship events.
Tying for third place were a duo from Purpoodock Club in Ron Kelton and John Hayes. Kelton was the model of consistency for the event, shooting rounds of 70-71-71—212 (-1) to grab his share of third place. Kelton won the Mid-Amateur Championship last month at Waterville and kept up his good form, and he has now shot par or better in the five championship rounds he’s played in Maine Golf events this summer.
Hayes had a round that was a roller coaster from the get-go. Despite a double bogey on the opening hole, Hayes got back to even with an eagle on the par-5 4th hole. The back nine saw more back-and-forth, as he made four birdies and an eagle against a quad on 12 and bogey on the last. Even with the colorful scorecard, Hayes, the 2015 champion, shot 69 to match the low round of the day on Thursday. He was joined by James Frost (Fox Ridge GC) and Armand Ouellette (Biddeford-Saco CC) for the low score in the final round with 69 on the difficult course setup.
Rounding out the top 5 in this year’s championship were two members from Martindale CC in Will Kannegieser and Jace Pearson. Both players finished at 214 (+1) after three rounds.
All of the players who played in the final round will receive an exemption into the 2023 Maine Amateur Championship at Samoset Resort in Rockport next July. Additionally, the top 16 players and ties will receive a berth in the Match Play Invitational at Falmouth CC on August 1-3 in a few weeks.
Maine Golf would like to thank the membership, staff, and grounds crew at Webhannet for making this a great week of championship golf.